Thursday, January 24, 2013

Freezing Rain in Utah - January 24, 2013

A rare occurrence in Utah - freezing rain.  Even when driving slowly, cars simply don't have control.  Ice buildup on roads that resists the usual salt treatments.  Water freezes on windshields and windows.  "More accidents than they can count so far," says the Highway Patrol.   In front of my house, several people slid off he road just trying to drive down the hill.  An SUV spun completely around.  Watching news reports this morning was not for the faint of heart.  Then sometime in the morning a plane slid off a taxiway at Salt Lake International Airport, and a decision was made to close all runways (first time in 20 years they had to close all runways).  Now, hours later, they remain closed with many flight delayed or cancelled, and travelers wondering what to do now.

I had volunteered to drive my grandson to school at 1 p.m. for a little spelling bee.  His class is off-track (year-round school schedule) right now, and so is not in class, but wanted to compete.  Unfortunately, as conditions worsened at the morning progressed, I cancelled.  I was sorry to do that, but thought it better for all of us to stay home and stay safe.

Normally, precipitation falls either as snow or rain in this state.  Freezing rain is rare and requires the specific conditions that exist right now.  It comes down to this long-term inversion we've had that has kept us well below freezing temps the whole month of January (apart from just two days).  Here's how the weather people explain it:
First, remember we have a deep layer of snow this month which keeps a cold layer of air near the ground, and that's what sets us up for the inversion to begin with.  The inversion means warmer temperatures at high altitudes, currently in the 30's and 40's, but cold near the ground where the trapped air is smoggy and currently from single digits to the 20's.  As this storm passes over the inversion, precipitation falls initially as rain.  But when it hits the cold lower level, the rain turns to freezing rain.  Normally, a storm is preceded by wind which scours out all the pollution and gets rid of the inversion.  That didn't happen this time, and with the inversion stuck here, the conditions were perfect for what happened today.

This is one of the worst days on Utah roads that most people even remember.  I have felt so anxious thinking about family members who had to go to work in this.

Of course, there are the global warming deniers who take a day like today and say, "What Global Warming?"  I happened to see an interesting article just today on what's causing this fierce cold weather.  To make it simple:  Global warning = less sea ice = sudden stratospheric warming event in Arctic = colder, snowier weather in North America and Europe. 

As for me, I made a cup of hot cocoa for some extra comfort this afternoon.  Chocolate for a little lift, and a hot mug to hold onto for comfort.


Bee's Blog said...

Weather patterns have changed and continue to do so.The best place to be during these freezing times is at home where it`s safe and there`s hot chocolate to be had!

Bekkieann said...

Boy, that's for sure. I hope I don't see this again in my lifetime.

troutbirder said...

We hate icy roads. My advisor says if global warming causes us to have winter weather like Kansas, we're packing up and moving north to Winnepeg so we can still have snow....:)

Bekkieann said...

I hate them too, TB. The only thing to do is stay home. Luckily, it's very rare here. I'm just hoping that climate change doesn't make them more frequent here.